Sunday, February 14, 2010


Water Works Day in Ashbourne

The resignation of Deirdre de Burca came as a bit of a surprise on Friday. Up until recently she had been an active member of the Seanad. Sure, in the run up to the European elections (when she was a candidate in Dublin) she was not around all of the time, but apart from then, NAMA week (when if memory serves me correctly she was absent for all 18 NAMA related votes – she was ill I believe) and the last week or so, she was a regular contributor.

On a personal level I also found her very pleasant, and I wish her well in her future role. Now that she is gone it makes the numbers a bit tighter for the government in the Seanad. However, speaking as the Labour Whip, It won’t have a huge difference on the outcome of any votes. When Alan Kelly won the Ireland south European seat his Seanad seat was captured by the government parties. Realistically, it will be extremely difficult to win any more Seanad votes – it will require an almighty mess-up on the part of the government whips.

The bigger question is what this tells us about what’s going on inside the Green Party. I don’t buy the spin being put around that she was miffed about not getting the European job. That might be part of the picture, but it’s not the full story. It’s clear that there is a growing sense of dissatisfaction within the Green Oireachtas members. It can’t be nice for them to see the party they joined and built be one election day away from disaster. For a few of the oireachtas members there can be little hope. However, for a few others there’s still a chance of retaining their seats. Paul Gogarty has a fighting chance. So too does Eamon Ryan with George Lee now off the pitch. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if either or both of these decided that their future is best served by pulling the greens out of government. I think that ministerial pensions kick in after three years in office, which is in just four months time. Could we see them break out soon after then?

My time in Leinster House this week was filled up with various meetings and speeches. I took the committee stages of the Dog Breeders Establishments Bill on Wednesday, I spoke about unemployment on Wednesday evening. I also spoke about the reconstruction of Haiti, Greece and the Euro and the need to protect mature students from the swingeing cutbacks being proposed by the government. The last contribution was on the back of a meeting I had with some students from NUIG, who explained to me that because of the proposed changes to the grants system, many access students have lost several thousand of euros in maintenance support.

On Friday I dropped over from my Ashbourne constituency office to visit St Declan’s school. The children were holding an Open Day to highlight the need to conserve water. This Water Works Day consisted of plays, a fashion show, as well as songs. The children were pressing the message that with just ten small changes we could make significant water savings at home. These included checking for leaks, taking quicker showers, not filling the bath and using a basin to wash the car, not a hose. The kids seemed to enjoy themselves. I got the opportunity to talk to the teachers and some parents. I’d say that any Ashbourne parent who mistakenly leaves a tap on this weekend will get a right telling off from the kids!

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